What passes for important today.

Once upon a time, Roman Pontiffs and the Curia they assembled as hired help concerned themselves with the great issues and questions of the day.   Minor issues were left to others to deal with.

These days, in the age of the feckless, a reversal of sorts can be noted.

Head over to Crisis for Fr. Rutler’s tour de force of apposite factoids and dates.  You might make some popcorn.   Here’s a taste…

These days seem to be a “perfect storm” of events which add up to a fourth crisis, and the faithful trust that “through toil and tribulation” the purging of corrupt elements will result in a stronger Catholic witness. Recently, Pope Francis told the press: “I will not say a word” about some of the most serious allegations of decadence in the Church, and he has long declined to respond to the dubia of some cardinals on the spiritual economy of marriage. Some have thought that such reticence is inconsistent with his dogmatic outspokenness on ambiguous matters such as climate change and capital punishment. On the most recent New Year’s Day, he said: “I would once again like to raise my voice” about immigration, and on Palm Sunday he told young people: “You have it in you to shout” even if “older people and leaders, very often corrupt, keep quiet.” That is why there was eagerness to hear him when in these most tumultuous months, on the fourth day of World Prayer for the Care of Creation, he finally spoke—but it turned out to be a warning about plastic debris in the world’s waters.

On September 1, the successor of Gregory I, who saw Latin civilization crumbling, and Leo IX, who grieved at the loss of Constantinople, and Pius V, who pitied souls lost in the heretical northern lands, implored and lamented: “We cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic. Here, too, our active commitment is needed to confront this emergency.” The struggle against plastic litter must be fought “as if everything depended on us.”

I almost spit my coffee on the keyboard when he reminded us of a 2007 of one of the minor dicasteries (which had to produce occasional documents to remind people – including Popes – of their existence to justify their budget):

 The poignancy of such pastoral solicitude inevitably brings to mind the historic document of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in 2007 which was entitled: “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road.” That was precisely the one thousandth anniversary of the no less important peace treaty with the Vikings signed by King Aethelred the Unready. The world will long remember that pontifical document’s opening line: “Moving from place to place, and transporting goods using different means, have characterized human behavior since the beginning of history.” The guidelines also pointed out (n. 21) that “A vehicle is a means of transport…” and observed (n. 23), “Sometimes the prohibitions imposed by road signs may be perceived as restrictions on freedom.”


In the Online Illustrated Dictionary of the Church, this piece might be linked under the voice: “sardonic”.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Thomas says:

    Great article! A sense of humor is crucial in these times!

  2. ex seaxe says:

    Half that document is about the problems of prostitutes (street walkers), street children, and the homeless.
    And did not Christ say something about being trusted in small things? The temptation of drivers to uncharitable, illegal, and immoral behaviour may not be a major issue, but all temptation is hazardous unless acknowledged, and resisted.

  3. Elizabeth D says:

    Maybe I’m the only person here who owns a printed copy of that document “Guidelines for the pastoral care of the road”. I have a Catholic Truth Society edition of it that I bought and keep at my longtime St Vincent de Paul volunteer job, where we store the belongings of homeless people, for the purpose of reminding myself and other volunteers that we are meant to evangelize homeless people. I have a post-it in it at the one page that is about homeless people and the fact they should be evangelized (sometimes people have the idea that we can’t combine caring for people’s bodies and also caring for their souls). I have for many years had a plastic bin of CTS booklets (the perfect size for homeless people to carry in a backpack) that I keep on our desk for them to take.

    I was just at this volunteer job an hour and a half today, and here is how the clients wanted to be evangelized. One very longtime client (since 2011), quite a friend of ours by now, who has moved into an apartment and was there today to withdraw all the large amount of belongings he had with us, took about 4 or 5 of them, including ones specifically catechetical or explaining Catholicism, he is a Lutheran attending a nondenominational church but friendly toward Catholicism. He is pro-life, which is unusual in our town, and this might be one reason he is open to Catholicism, he has told me in the past he has “thought about” Catholicism at times. I see him around town often and he is also interested in volunteering for our program now that he’s not homeless himself, even as a homeless man he’s long been an advocate or activist for “homeless issues” to city government and community organizations, so his caring about the homeless community is deeply ingrained.

    I also had a long religious discussion with another homeless man, first about heaven and hell and purgatory, but then he got the courage to ask the question he really was struggling with, about the relationship between God and the physical universe, without placing faith before a scientific mindset he was not really successful grasping what I was saying the nature of God and that He is in his essence pure spirit the cause and fundament of reality rather than a “substance” within the context of reality, but he couldn’t imagine how God as “pure spirit” as “Love” out there in space somehow, as “Truth” was able to act upon the world of matter and energy, he was mentally very bogged down in materialistic determinism that was making it hard for him to understand God like he seemed to want to, he too accepted a CTS catechism of Christian doctrine though. This person wanted to have faith but had an inadequate philosophical foundation. One wants to be a perfect explainer of these things. Even if one were, most adults get in the way of their own teachability.

    Then another of our homeless clients, an educated (here on student visa?) and clean cut man from Venezuela who is a fallen away Catholic, had a conversation with me beginning at the bus stop on the bus on the way back downtown, about religion and where I went to church, and about Mass in Spanish, but he was using the word “latin” as in Latin American so I had to clarify whether he meant Latin or Spanish and belted out some of the Credo in Latin which seemed to fascinate him, he did express interest then in Mass in the Latin language, I sadly explained we used to have that downtown and it was beautiful but now it is way out in the countryside and inaccessible by bus–though later I remembered there is a Novus Ordo Latin Mass once a week which I gave him the info about. He was interested enough in our church downtown that he got off with me at the stop for that and visited the church with me so he could see what church it is and what it is like, He loved that we have images of Mary from all the Latin American countries in a downstairs hallway, including the Virgin of Coromoto, familiar to him from Venezuela “I have not seen that image in many years!” but he was pleased. To be honest his interest in coming to Mass seemed a little more for linguistic reasons, for instance besides Mass in Latin he was interested in English Mass in order to practice English, since he remembers the words of the Mass in Spanish. But if he was coming to Mass, faith might be rekindled.

    So to sum up a long story, the “pastoral care of the road” document which really has nothing useful in its content does remind me and others to evangelize homeless people, though I don’t always have as much opportunity as I did today.

  4. Sawyer says:

    Can you imagine what tremendous benefits would have accrued to the Church to have Fr. Rutler as a bishop or even the pope?

  5. Lurker 59 says:

    One of the things that frustrate me to no end is those in high places, who not content with doing the rather simple job of preaching Christ crucified, decided to opine at ponderous length on topics far and wide in such a way that Christ is far removed and but an afterthought, if that.

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Starting a document with banal language, and including a lot of mindless filler, is a great bureaucratic way to ensure that most people ignore the good stuff further in.

  7. Kerry says:

    The See of plastic straws?

  8. JuliB says:

    I’ve gone through the SVDP national training, and they were quite explicit that we were not to “proselytize”. Any sharing of our faith (Christian or Catholic specifically) seemed to be frowned upon. We could offer to pray with them, but that’s about it.

    I was quite bothered by it.

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    Thank you Fr. Rutler.

    “Condemning the privatization of water resources, Pope Francis implied that a large burden of fault is to be blamed on Western capitalists. However, an awkward fact looms: a 2017 report of the “Ocean Conservancy” indicates that more plastic is dumped into the oceans by China, along with Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, than by the entire rest of the world. Indeed, ninety per cent of all plastic in the seas and oceans are carried there by rivers in India, Africa, and mostly China. Nonetheless, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Science, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, has said: “Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.””

    That last sentence is hogwash. Some clergy, and laity too, seem determined to transform Christ’s Church into yet another silly leftist NGO.

    And as far as “Western capitalism” goes, these folks could take an open-minded look at the positives of the free-market, private property, entrepreneurship, and micro-loans, which often go to women in impoverished countries. Those most opposed to “capitalism” would wail and gnash their teeth if their air-conditioning, refrigeration, and dental care disappeared.

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